Innocent flirting or child porn?
“Sexting,” using cell phones to take and pass around nude pics, was first highlighted in Utah last year when three Farmington teens were suspended from school after one parent discovered explicit photos on her daughter’s cell phone, and is now catching national headlines after the suicide of an 18-year-old girl in Cincinnati. Jessie Logan took her own life after her ex-boyfriend passed around pictures of her that she had sent him during their relationship.
Parents need to monitor what their kids are sending through their cell phones.
The Farmington teens were threatened with child pornography charges that never came to fruition; however, that is no longer the case nationally. More than two dozen teens in six states have been charged for sexting so far this year, causing controversy over the choice to prosecute children for child pornography.
One Farmington mother, Terri Rodgers, has this to say, “I think it’s ridiculous. I don’t think you should charge children with a felony when they don’t even have any idea what they are doing or what a felony even is.”
It seems the Utah Legislature agrees with Rodgers, having recently passed a bill to reduce such charges to a misdemeanor for people under 18.
Attorney Larry Walters told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Tuesday in New York, “Kids will be kids, but that doesn’t make them criminals. This problem needs to be solved as a social problem, not a criminal problem,” Walters said.
In an even more outrageous twist, the two Bountiful Jr. High School teachers accused of having sexual relationships with a male student are said to have started their respective relationships with the boy via ‘sexting.” Experts like Sariah Donnahoo from the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force say that it is often easier for people, especially teens, to cross sexual and bullying lines through texting. The remote and small-screen format create an environment that provides a false sense of invincibility from consequences due to bad behavior. With no laws on the books that address this new phenomenon, child pornography laws seem to be the only recourse available to prosecutors.
“We don’t really have a choice. There’s nothing else out there, and we are relying on prosecutorial discretion, meaning the prosecutors won’t bring these cases. But when kids are out of hand, prosecutors are saying enough is enough.”
Parry Aftab, Internet Safety Consultant on the Today Show
So what is sexting exactly?
Sexting (a portmanteau of sex and texting) is the act of sending sexually explicit photos electronically, primarily between cell phones. It is practiced primarily by young adults, though it is known to occur amongst children as young as middle-school age.
“It’s stupid. It’s not pornography; it’s not like they’re selling it.”
Gabi Edwards, 8th grader at Bountiful Jr. High
25% of children identified as victims of online porn originally sent the pictures themselves
I personally believe it’s violating a privilege of having the technology that we have been blessed with. How many suicides have occurred that we don’t hear about. Or even other horrible endings that we don’t hear about. All due to something that young kids are allowing themselves to be a part of. Our children in this society are becoming more and more callused to things that are blatantly wrong. I am a mother of three daughters and have dealt with this situation first hand. It is definitely a problem.